Our son River’s first MRI – at four days old – revealed significant brain injury, yet doctors were unable at that time to give us a specific clinical diagnosis or long-term prognosis for his future abilities and limitations. The only thing to do for now, they said, was to keep his body healthy and his brain stimulated, while we ‘wait and see’ how he develops. Like it’s that easy…

We were given abundant advice about how often to feed him, how much weight he needed to gain, and what medications he should be taking, but there were no specific instructions on brain stimulation. 

Why was there no ‘stimulation therapy’ session to attend?

Should we be buying toys that light up, vibrate and make a dozen sounds? 

Feeling at a loss regarding the best kind of ‘stimulation’ to provide, we turned to the solution we apply to so many of life’s problems: take him outside.

During his first few months, River slept in tents and cottages, breathed air filtered by trees and lakes, and watched the sun rise and set from the gently rocking canoe. 

His baby eyes still couldn’t focus more than a short distance from his face, and at that time we had no idea whether he had any cognitive or sensory impairment, but we decided to assume that he could see and feel and understand everything around him.

We showed him fish, loons, snakes and otters. 

His dad carried him on ‘touch-tours’ of our campsites, guiding his tiny fingers into contact with moss, pine needles and tree bark. That summer we all experienced nature more acutely than ever before.

We’ll never know how those early natural stimulations may have impacted River’s brain development and growing mind, but if his ongoing love of the outdoors is any indication, it certainly didn’t do him any harm.

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